For the last six years I have always enjoyed the third question Australians ask me once they realize I’m not from there (this usually happens after the first word comes out of my mouth). The normal conversation with an Aussie consists of three questions; how long have you been here? What team do you follow (the correct answer is anyone but Collingwood), and why are you in Melbourne.
This question is fun because of the expression on peoples faces after I say, “I’m a Baptist Minister,” It’s a combination of shock, confusion, and worry about the ten curse words they had used while talking to me. The second blessing is after earning their respect individuals will come to me with their questions about God or Scripture.
Unfortunately in today’s world while the message and calling never changes, we need to have a new role in the community.
In recent years businesses and some religious groups have taken advantage of loopholes in Immigration laws by bringing in workers who are paid very little, and immediately go on Government assistance programs. This has led to Countries placing lots of new restrictions on those who want a Permanent Visa. One of the biggest changes is these kinds of visas will only be offered to people whose skill set is desperately needed in the Country. So in order to gain a PR Visa the applicant must prove there is a lack of individuals who do their type of work.
This challenge has led Missionaries to focus their ministry on creating ministries that meet the needs of their unsaved in their community. These outreaches over time will allow them to develop relationships, share the Gospel, and invite others the Church activities.
Though there is a lack of Baptist Ministers (in most cases I am the only one people have ever met) the Immigration Department of Australia doesn’t see ministers as something truly needed. This led me after talking with fellow Missionaries and praying about the situation to create two new ministries in the community of Craigieburn (where the Church I lead Cornerstone Baptist Church is located). The first is a Conversational English Group that will allow Australians who know English but aren’t comfortable speaking it to practice their conversation skills in a relaxed environment. Leading a group like this as a volunteer during 2011 led to many opportunities to share the Gospel, as well as answer questions about God.
The second ministry is a Computer Tutoring outreach, which will offer one on one help with computers, and specifically target retirees in Melbourne who desire to learn more about technology. In the future I hope to begin an after school program that offers free homework help for parents with young children, and home Bible Studies that covers Biblical Events from Genesis to Revelation.
Planting these kinds of outreaches in communities is very different from the role I embraced over the last six years of ministry as the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church, but it is something that will meet the spiritual needs of Melbourne, where the unsaved will not come to us.
My desire is that this new ministry role can be explained clearly to the Immigration Department (specifically the Immigration Lawyer that I’m dealing with) because this role IS something needed in Melbourne. Please be in prayer that this need for Believers who will minister to not only the physical needs, but also their emotional and spiritual need will be clearly understood. Also pray for me as I prepare lesson plans and practice teaching the classes during my furlough. Oh and don’t worry, I will still answer their third question with the words “I am a Baptist Minister” and a huge smile on my face.